In collaboration with Polestar, the Swiss company Bcomp has developed a fabric that will not only transform the interior of vehicles but also reshape our notions of luxury and design sustainably. Ross Kelk from Polestar’s development department and Per Mårtensson, CRO of Bcomp, spoke at the Polestar Space Zurich about the joint journey from vision to market readiness.
It’s hard to imagine how a bundle of flax sitting in the corner can become an ultra-light, futuristic-looking interior material. The technology of the Fribourg-based company Bcomp, founded in 2011, makes this possible. The so-called Polestar Signature Weave combines a smooth surface with a grid-like structure on the back. The result is an adaptable but very robust material that will be used in various interior trimmings of the Polestar 3, such as in the seat backs. Compared to conventional plastic trim, this can save more than half of the petroleum-based raw materials. Additionally, the material shines with its unique lightness, and reduces vibrations by up to 250 percent.
A Shared Mindset
“Natural materials are extremely efficient when used and applied in the right way,” says Per Mårtensson, Chief Revenue Officer of Bcomp. Flax is an easy-to-care-for and highly robust plant that has been used as a raw material for linen in the textile industry for millennia. Today, more than 80 percent of the global flax crop is cultivated in Europe.
Bcomp’s origins lie in skiing, where the innovative flax fabrics helped increase performance and reduce the weight while decreasing the use of petroleum-based plastics. “When we first saw the material, we knew that this technology perfectly aligns with Polestar’s goals,” recalls Ross Kelk, Head of Interiors R&D and Industrial Program Leader of Polestar’s British development team. “Our companies shared the same goals, values, and a common mindset from the beginning.“
A New Aesthetic
Initially, however, it was not clear how and where the material could be used. “We experimented, played, tried different things,” Ross remembers. This applies not only to the material but also to the entire perception of luxury. “Traditionally, manufacturers associate it with exclusive materials like leather, veneered wood, and a lot of embellishments. However, we wanted to confidently place the material in the foreground and openly showcase it. Make sustainability a tangible, exclusive experience.” Thus, the design team sought a new aesthetic that makes this fusion of design, minimalism, and sustainability palpable. Sustainability inspired the design team to a completely new aesthetic.
From Prototype to Frozen Pizza
From the handshake to the first finished product took several years. The path from the prototype to mass production is full of challenges. “On the one hand, natural materials always vary — no cherry wood table is the same as another,” explains Per. “Here, we had to reconcile variation and quality.” On the other hand, any change in the manufacturing process of a vehicle entails costs and risks. “Polestar fully supported our joint idea, convinced suppliers and partners, and integrated the new material into the production chain.“
Per compares the current process (admittedly somewhat simplified) to a frozen pizza: “We deliver the jointly developed base material for the Signature Weave to production. There, it is heated and shaped.“
The Next Generation
Unlike a frozen pizza, the development phase does not end with the first market-ready product. “Usually, creative work is done when a new technology is introduced into the production process. In our collaboration, it’s different: we use insights from the production process for new creative approaches and ideas. We think in generations, so to speak,” says Ross. Several new applications are already being tested, performance and sustainability are being optimized, and the idea of a circular economy is gaining more focus. “Recycling will be a significant topic for us in the coming years. We have already proven it is feasible in small scale. but the infrastructure for large scale recycling is still missing,” says Per. The beginning of another joint step into the future? We’ll see…
All images © Polestar – Kai Grossmann